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Invisible Woman Gives Nuanced Take On Perry's For Colored Girls

Haven't had a chance to see Tyler Perry's version of  "For Colored Girls" yet, but I've heard both the good and the bad. One of my favorite film bloggers Invisible Woman did see the film and offered what I thought was a very well-written, measured opinion on the merits and demerits of Perry's work. For her, it boils down to being well-done, but too dreary as a celebration of black femininity turns into lurid tales of being a beast of burden and abuse.

More after the jump.

From Invisible Woman:

I could not escape the feeling of claustrophobia that set in for me midway into the film. The close, tight face shots; the small, cramped apartments--began to close in on me. In the beginning of the film it was expansive and full of possibilities; as the film progressed and the plotlines and characters started to begin to be involved with one another, I felt myself shrinking. As everything became smaller and more universal, instead of feeling identity in the close relationships and growth of these women, I felt suffocated, and thoughts of wanting to escape the film began to arise ...

When the film ended, I was relieved. I don't think I've ever felt that way before about a movie. But I have to say I was relieved to see the misery about the pain men cause be over, to not have to look at the dreary apartments anymore, and to not see Lorretta Devine's craptastic wig any longer.

The one piece of criticism that has stuck with me so far is the recurring mention of how the movie seems to focus on the misery of black male/female relations and not touch on the more celebratory aspects of the original choreo poem. I've gotten the impression in the past that Perry has some serious issues when it comes to gender stereotyping. (Everyone is usually painted in broad strokes of good or evil with little gray area. The harpy. The good woman. The monster. The good, blue collar man.) He also has more than a few issues with class and these issues show up routinely in his work. The fear of the classic stage play being reduced to "Woman good; man bad" stereotyping is concerning, but I'll wait until I actually see the film before I form an opinion of it.

Check out the full review here.

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Reader Comments (46)

Does it bother anyone that they are all light-skinned?

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeaghan

@ Meaghan

I haven't seen enough of Perry's films to weigh in on his perceived skin color issues, but I know this film also has Whoopi Goldberg in it, and she is dark-skinned. And Loretta Divine isn't light. As for the other actresses, my definition of "light' kind of varies (my brain sees Thandie Newton as light, but doesn't really see Phylicia Rashad as being light for whatever weird reason even though they are probably close to being the same color.) But, no, there are not a lot of dark skinned actresses in this.

November 9, 2010 | Registered CommenterDanielle Belton

Thanks for posting Invisible Woman's review.
Told me what I needed to know.

Netflix Queue....

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterurnumbersix

Thank you for sending me to this review! She felt EXACTLY the way I did. My aunt loved the film and I couldn't wait to get out of there because I felt like it was just so tragic and sad and blah! And yet I wanted to really support this film and celebrate it but Invisible Woman wrote my thoughts almost verbatim.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrandi Ford

@ Danielle and Meaghan

You don't consider Anika Noni Rose dark skinned? What about Kimberly Elise and Kerry Washington?

but I do agree with you Danielle that for some reason some people don't immediately resgister as fair skinned to me even if they are. Ms. Rashad would be one of them.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbuffy

but I do agree with you Danielle that for some reason some people don't immediately resgister as fair skinned to me even if they are. Ms. Rashad would be one of them.

is it because you link her with her sister, Debbie Allen, who is definitely light-skinned, and Rashad is the darker of the two sisters?

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrikyrah

I have the same reaction about Phylicia Rashad.

I've always tried to avoid Tyler Perry because of the clips of his gross black women characters (not all of them are, but the ones that get attention certainly are gross). I haven't seen "Precious" (one day, when it's on basic cable....).

I also don't like to read reviews before having seen a movie. I will say this, however:

I saw the first production of "For Colored Girls ..." at the Public Theater in New York when I was a kid. It's a chamber piece in a small theater with access to the stage from three sides (I think) and the characters were made deliberately abstract "The Lady in Green," "The Lady in Orange," etc.) They were all dressed exactly the same, in leotards and dance practice skirts, except for the color of their character.

So I don't know if giving the characters names and "opening it up" will work. It was enjoyable and thrilling at the time, but to me it seems like a piece of its time and I don't know how 21st Century audiences will respond to it.

Hope I'm wrong. At least a lot of wonderful black actresses get some screen time.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterReader

@ Buffy

As you may have noticed, I just said there weren't "a lot" of dark skinned actresses because it is soooo subjective on who is considered "dark" and who isn't. I don't consider Anika to be dark, but she's not light. She's just brown to me. But there will be someone who will argue she is dark. But then someone darker than her will argue that she is not dark at all. And then it just devolves into complete and utter madness. I'm just not going to go there. I'm going to assume that when people mean "dark" they mean people who are dark like Whoopi or Taye Diggs or Leon or N'Bushe Wright or Jill Marie Jones, but not a dark brown like Anika. But, honestly, the only person I consider "light" in the thing is Thandie Newton because my brain processes black people and skin tone in a weird way that seems to only belong to me.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle Belton

@ rikyrah

I think it has to do with features. If I see a light skinned person with very pronounced black features (like myself with big eyes, big nose and big lips) unless they are very, very fair, I normally do not see them as being light. For some reason, my brain associates lightness with having very, very fair skin AND European features. Hence, you almost have to look near "white" for me to consider you light skinned 99.9 percent of the time. There are lots of people I've been told were "light" who I didn't see as light. In almost every case, it was because they had very black features.

Honestly, I think so much of skin tone perception is based on "who is lighter or darker than me" anyway.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle Belton

i'm always amused at people who criticize perry for creating movies that only tell parts of a story. only so much can be done in two hours, without making the movie unbearably long. so some parts are going to be inevitably left out. i challenge people who create a movie that WON'T criticized for only telling part of the story.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLOL

Actually, It wasn't as bad as I feared, and I'll likely go see it again, when I am not all clenched up and chanting "Please don't suck!" Please don't suck! Having been up close and personal with this for some time, I get the sacredness, and was disappointed when the news was released, but its here, and in all fairness, its not a bad film.

I didn't feel like it was typical Tyler men bashing, the men were there to move the story along for you can't shoot a film on a stark set with a colored light spotlight. i think that's why I think Courtland Milloy's woe is me crying about the film is BS. Its not about the men, its about the women

@Meaghan - the only people who could be called light were the two characters who were bi-racial, and explained by the character (won't give spoilers for those who haven't read the book or seen the movie). everyone else is brown or darker skinned.

The movie has issues, and it can be overwhelming, but I think that is the nature of the original choreopoem. Some stories will hit like a ton of bricks, and others won't resonate as strongly. But I don't regret the 410, and as I said, I'll probably go see it again...

ps... Tyler, i know you had Janet Jackson posters on your wall growing up, for whatever reason, but the parameters of her acting ability are much too narrow .... Let her down gently and move on...

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdivaliscious11

Long time lurker stepping to the mic for a sec. Just a word on the discussion of light vs dark skin complexions. One of the worst things that happened to our community was the reduction of our hues to two categories. Consequently, there are too many obviously brown/ caramel colored black men and women walking around proclaiming to be light-skinned (otherwise known as "not dark-skinned"). We once reserved the term "light-skinned" to refer to very fair skinned black people (in the range of Thandie Newton and perhaps the girl who played her sister). Sadly, now the term is for everyone who doesn't want to be considered dark-skinned. *smh* I've had to break the hearts of many a brown skinned kin folk who thought they were light skinned. The truth will set us all free. Bring back the three categories! :-)

As for the movie, I am struck by the prevalence of negativity from inside and outside of the black community on my "plight" as a black woman. The unfortunate hand that I have been dealt because I'm unattractive, not feminine enough, undesired by my own men (and the ones who will entertain me are damaged beyond repair), and undesired by all other men. It is nothing other than a miracle that I [many] other black women wake up smiling, thriving, and ready to embrace life for the all the joys that it has to offer US!

Perhaps "being sorrowful and colored IS redundant" and our joy is all a show. *sarcasm* Regardless, I'm not buying or supporting these lies anymore.

There is beauty, appeal, and intrigue in us beyond the stereotypical downtrodden tragedies that are played tirelessly in the media. So.Over.It!

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHonestCounselor

That's really revealing how from a simple movie review, the only thing people talk about is the skintone of those women.

I don't even understand, what this has to do with the movie. Aren't all BW or Mixed race????


I kinda want to see the movie mainly because I am looking forward to see (again) some of my favourites actresses who don't have (often) a platform to display their talents!

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNubiah

I enjoyed the movie. As did the 10 ladies with me and three others I spoke to about it the next day. Each one of us is a different as our names most not all of us are not fans of Perry. As with any film, we had various takes on the good, bad & ugly. What didn't work & what we would like to have seen.

Most movie critic & blog reviews I've seen are either
1. Thinly veiled swipes at Tyler Perry the person & the career - a continuance of the 'he should not have directed this beef'
2. Comparisons to the play -which even Shange says not to do. *cough* invisible woman *cough* & Starburst vs fruit? really Ikpi?

This is a story of joy and laughter -yes laughter- in the midst of tragedy. Extreme tragedies are far too common among women - including not exclusive to black women. Important to note that although common, these occurrences of extremely tragic circumstances are largely ignored when they are done to black women- thus the importance of this film to highlight, give depth to, and celebrate the resilience of our sisters.

There were incredible performances from more than a few of the cast and the true tragedy is seeing such a small handful of talented black female performers and realizing how little work there is to portray the common story or to tell our unique ones.

& I'd like to remind the Invisible Woman that feeling of claustrophobia was an emotional response brought on by some hella good directing & storytelling from the same man that brought us the Primetime Skidmark that is Meet the Browns. Which in my book condemns Perry even more so for the garbage he puts out into the atmosphere. Whatever else Tyler Perry may be, he went in with this one. Keep your formulaic RomComs, I prefer movies with a deeper story to tell.

Oscar worthy performances from several (sorry Janet) cast members. I defy you not to be moved during the scene with Elise & Rashad opening the curtains. Oscar. Winning. Performances. and Nobel winning themes. S/o to Thandi Newton for making you hate her & daring you to identify with her & cheer for her.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe_A

Don't think any of the women would fall under the title "dark skinned", I see 3 high yellas and the rest seem "brown skinned" but if you are dark-skinned, I suppose they would be in comparison. There are not a ton of dark skinned actresses with a name big enough to carry a film, talented or not. Only people with deep issues with their own skin and hair see the world like that. they frame absolutely everything from that basic level.

Isn't it funny how almost every conversation about black folks in the media or relationships degrades into dark vs. light or good hair versus bad hair shout match. Can't wait for the "Black men only want to marry white women/All black men ar secretly gay/Nobody loves black women and they are doomed to die alone and be found weeks later having been half-eaten by their cats/ Black women need to marry magical perfect white men to avoid dying alone and be found weeks later having been half-eaten by their cats.....

Tyler Perry like everyone else sees the world through his own "special" tinted glasses, being the victim of abuse by a black man/men and being raised by black women who we all must agree--- far too many times bond over bashing men and or commiserating over relationship drama. I would even say that a lot of black women/women in general seek out men that will work their nerves subconciously so they will have something to gripe about durring girl-talk time.

All of his movies are ultimately directed at the black audience and while there are many who are tired of these same scenarios and would love to see more depth and nuance, his core audience probably would not get it. They'd probably throw up a Kanye shrug and accuse T.P. of selling his soul to the devil or joining the Illuminati, the same thing they do to any other successful black celebrity that tries to be artistic and metaphoric.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternovanova

This movie didn't move you, its because you didn't listen closely. All the diamonds were in the dialogue.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe_A

I thought this was a worthwhile movie and I thought Janet Jackson did a fantastic job. I don't understand the criticism directed towards Mr. Perry. He has given Black actors jobs and exposure so what's the problem. Sure Medea is caricature but I'd rather watch Medea than seeing movies portaying black folks as only shooting each other and trying to get laid. As for the discussion regarding skin tone: LET IT GO! People can't help how their genetic makeup and physical attributes like skin color.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSandy

From one Sandy to another I couldn't agree more and to novanova you must have Jean Grey telepathic powers because you said EXACTLY what I was thinking.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSandy Beach

To both Sandys. Thanks, I am so glad to hear what you had to say. I feel the same way. Every since this man has been making film I have yet to read anything positive about his work on this site. I admire that he worked and worked on a circuit that evolved with a following for him. But as soon as he got there all I have heard is what he should do for others...mind you that never like, appreciated nor attended his plays on the circuit. I love the fact that I am getting to see Black folk working. He has introduced me to a wealth of talent that I wasn't even aware of. I get to see them in major roles and I love it. I am looking forward to seeing this film as I do have the play on DVD. Before he could even get the casting done people were talking about what he couldn't do with it. I love being able to see a man at work who has taken his art to the point of ownership. I wish that others could find some appreciation for what he does.
As far as color is concerned, I heard them mention that about PRECIOUS. I am so busy watching his films that I don't even notice things like that. The overwhelming members of his casts are Black and I love to see Black folk working...why the color of them matter I don't quite get.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkhrish

This movie was better than I expected. And as for Janet's performance... there are people I'd rather see acting than her, however, I think had Perry made some different choices in how she was staged, we might have felt and seen something different in her performance. To his credit (that phrase hurts), I think he was trying to use visual cues to show us that her character is detached, but when you hamper an actress's performance by not allowing them to face the other person in a very emotional scene, even the best actresses are going to have a hard time resonating with the audience.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJo

The movie wasn't as bad as I expected it to be.

Perry struggled with the transitions between dialogue and poetry.

This movie is like The Joy Luck Club, but for brown women.

@Jo I think he filmed that scene in that manner to symbolize the absence of that man in his marriage. But maybe I'm giving him too much credit ;)

I would see this movie again. I feel like I may have missed a few details the first time around.

November 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJade

I will not and cannot see a TP film and certainly not this one. I don't think that it's a struggle being a Black American woman, Black men are not monsters, we are all not here on this earth with mental and social problems. I'm so tired of seeing Black men and women in these type of roles. I have no problem at all with the Ms. Shange's work, it's TP that needs to grow as a director and writer. It's not about the dollar dollar bill, y'all.

November 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOnly the Tall

The Tyler Perry bashing is comical at this point. Look around black people. There aren't too many other producers giving black actors work. It's funny how whenever the topic shifts to Tyler Perry's work we black folks get all extra "educated" with such discerning tastes. Come on! Tyler Perry's material is no worse than some the movies and music we all grew up on. No, it is not groundbreaking. But the majority of the movies and music we Americans consume is not either. Why is the standard so high for him?

The real shame in all this is the actresses in this film do not get enough quality roles. The next time we see an all star cast of black women on film like this will be when Oprah or (ironically) Tyler Perry decide to take on a similar project. Because, for whatever reason, all the intellectually approving film makers out there can't seem to make it happen.

November 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterT Rogers

I agree with you T. Rogers. The minute Tyler Perry's name is mentioned, black foks go in a defense mode and tend to look at him and his work with a hyper critical eye. They look at his work with an eye for what is wrong with it. And you can almost bet that the conversation will eventually morph into one of skin color. 2010 and we are still consumed with who is light and dark.

November 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFran

Courtland Milloy summed it up for me. I'm good. Thanks anyway.

November 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKGDC
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